Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Going On Ahead: Reformation Or Revolution?

As Christians move further and further away from the Protestant Reformation, more and more are misunderstanding what happened nearly 500 years ago.  Many of the modern Evangelicals portray the Reformation as a time when a group of Christians revolted against the Church and "traditionalism".  It is thus, en vogue to hold an almost latent disdain for anything that is historical as if everything historical should be rejected as pertaining to "Rome Lite".
But were the Reformers really revolting against the entire Church structure or were they really only trying to Reform it but ended up having to reject Papalism?  First, we might look at Martin Luther's 95 Theses -- many people refer to it but few have actually read it and dissected what Luther was actually saying.  A closer look at the actual points will show that Luther was rather random, even perhaps contradictory.
Luther and the Reformers before and after him certainly appealed to Scripture, and Scripture alone but if they wanted, they could and did often appeal to the fact historic Christianity was actually on their side. This is most apparent when we understand that the Reformation was NOT only about the Reformers vs the Roman Catholics but a third group hardly is mentioned by wanna-be modern "reformers" -- The Radicals.  It is extremely important to mention this group because most of the modern "reformers" more resemble the radicals than they do the Reformers.
The Radicals of the Reformation believed that the Reformers weren't going far enough to split from Rome.  The Radicals considered the Reformers to merely be "Rome Lite".  They would even ridicule Luther by calling him "Dr. Easy-Chair", "Dr. Pussyfoot", and the "pope of Wittenberg".(source -- Here I Stand - A Life of Martin Luther; Roland Bainton)
Many of the modern wanna-be "reformers" treat historic Christianity the same way the radicals treated Luther.  It is interesting that the Bible speaks to the subject of going farther than intended, whether in interpretation or application.
Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.(2 John 1:9-11 NIV)
The radicals will retort, "But didn't Luther and the other Reformers also, 'run ahead' of the Church?".  The quick answer is, NO.  The Reformers didn't jettison historic Christianity as we're often called to do today.  They called for the end of things that were clearly NOT part of historic Christianity.  Even the Greek Orthodox did not agree that the Pope in Rome was the "vicar of Christ", but rather just one geographical bishop among many.
Yes, there is a fine line between reformation and revolution. Reformation often has revolutionary effects, as did the Protestant Reformation which affected more than just the religious landscape of Europe, it affected the social and political as well.  Unfortunately, many people; Christians or otherwise don't understand this fine line.  There is a fine line between freedom and anarchy; where we have seen many societies fall into anarchy when they claim they are seeking freedom.
So, the next time you encounter a "Christian" who is speaking of "reform", listen closely and see if you can determine if they are really advocating revolution and anarchy.  Maybe you can help steer them back before they "go on ahead".

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